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Tutor profile: Naomi G.

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Naomi G.
Academic Librarian Since 2007
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Questions

Subject: Library and Information Science

TutorMe
Question:

What are library databases, and why are they important for college research?

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Naomi G.
Answer:

A database is a collection of resources that can be searched in a variety of ways. Library databases are collections of subject-specific resources that the library has paid for and made available to the students. These resources are very different from the types of written materials found on the world wide web. Library databases are produced by publishing companies that review materials for quality, and, very importantly, gather together large numbers and wide varieties of scholarly academic articles in the databases they publish. It is essential for college students to make active use of databases and other library-specific resources for three reasons. First, professors in all disciplines, e.g. English, history, social work, and psychology, require students to use scholarly articles in their writing projects. The types of scholarly articles students must use tend to be available primarily in the database collections to which libraries subscribe. It is not possible for college students to successfully complete writing and research projects using only materials available on the world wide web. Second, learning how to use specialist, scholarly sources is an essential part of the college education experience. Third, learning how to use specialist, subject-specific database resources helps students prepare for the types of research they will likely be required to carry out in their future careers. Learning how to use subscription-based library resources takes a certain amount of time and effort, but it is essential for college-level work, and for developing research skills required in many professions. All colleges and universities have well-trained professional librarians who are happy to guide students through the process of identifying and using these resources.

Subject: Religious Studies

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Question:

In what ways is the Hasidic movement in Judaism different from other types of Jewish orthodoxy?

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Naomi G.
Answer:

The Hasidic movement originated in the 18th century in Eastern Europe. The word "Hasidic" comes from the Hebrew word for "pious." The founder of the movement, Israel ben Eliezer (Israel the son of Eliezer), is reported to have been a relatively unlearned man who loved to wander into the forest to pray and commune with nature. He was convinced that simple, heartfelt prayer was as pleasing to God as formal, highly structured congregational prayer. Jewish life in Eastern Europe at this time was dominated by a fierce and uncompromising commitment to study of Jewish holy texts, of which there are hundreds, and even thousands. Prestige in these communities was based on scholarship, which was, not surprisingly, entirely the realm of men. The vast majority of Eastern European Jews were ordinary working men who studied basic texts as children but never became scholars, and, of course, their wives and daughters, who were not expected to study. Jewish life in Eastern Europe was also dominated by fears of violence in the form of mob actions known as "pogroms," organized riots in which Jewish communities were attacked and plundered, with terrible losses of life and destruction of property. Into this environment, Israel ben Eliezer emerged as a charismatic teacher who preached that the most unlearned people could commune with God by speaking to God as a child speaks to a father. He taught that such spontaneous, heartfelt prayer was as pleasing to God as formal study and prayer. Very importantly, he also taught that God could be worshiped through expressions of joy, such as singing and dancing. As his teachings spread, Jews in Russia and Poland were inspired to adapt his teachings and to grow in their spirituality by practicing spontaneous prayer, dancing, and singing. Israel ben Eliezer designated successors from among his followers, and these followers established their own "courts," as they came to be known: groups of followers gathered around a particular rabbinical and spiritual leader. There grew up hundreds of such courts throughout Eastern Europe, each one centered on a particular rabbi, or "rebbe." Each Hasidic group was named for the town in which it was founded. Today, one of the central distinguishing features of the Hasidic movement is the focus of each Hasidic group on the person of a "rebbe," who usually attains that role by inheriting it from a father, father-in-law, or uncle. Thus, rabbinic leadership in Hasidic groups is dynastic. No other group within orthodoxy establishes leadership in this way, nor are other groups focused so intensely on the leadership and purported holiness of one person. Today's Hasidim are also notable on account of men's style of dress: long coats, various types of black hats or holiday fur hats, and long, uncut earlocks called "payos," which they maintain in accordance with a command in Leviticus 19:27.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

How would you characterize John Cheever's portrayal of suburban life as depicted in the collection titled "The Stories of John Cheever?"

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Naomi G.
Answer:

For decades, a staple of the American dream has involved home ownership, and precisely the sort of suburban life that Cheever's characters have attained: green lawns, gardens, cars in the driveway, children in private schools, and summer vacations by the sea. Yet Cheever consistently paints a dark portrait of suburban life. Although many of the characters in his stories are solidly middle-class, or even affluent, they are often sad, discontent for reasons that are not clear to them, and regretful about unfulfilled dreams. Many of these characters display an awareness of their relative comforts along with an ability to enjoy certain aspects of the lives they lead, but the more dominant features of their emotional lives are melancholy and yearning. One of Cheever's dominant themes seems to be the failure of suburban, middle-class life to fully satisfy human spiritual, emotional , and existential needs and longings. Accompanying this is an emphasis on the dark underside of the outwardly attractive exterior of suburban life.

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